Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas in Yellowstone -- PBS Documentary Brought Back Memories

I just watched PBS's "Christmas in Yellowstone."  It brought back a lot of memories and made me realize that I have to go back again this spring, summer, fall, or winter.

In one segment, a female grizzly gave birth to two cubs during hibernation. That reminded me that, when I worked with the Animal Protection Institute (API) in 1981-1985, one of my first assignments was to meet a "courier" from Canada who was bringing two female grizzly cubs to Montana to have them turned loose in Yellowstone Park. Their mother had been shot and killed in Canada (where grizzlies aren't endangered). The original plan was to euthanize the two cubs, but API negotiated a deal that allowed us to get them and take them to Yellowstone (where grizzlies are endangered species) and release them there to bolster the ability of the remaining grizzlies to procreate without inbreeding.

I met the courier from Canada in Kalispell, Montana after driving from Eatonville. The two cubs were still small enough to fit into large plastic canine crates. I remember looking at the cubs and the crates that would airlift them into the back country. I noticed that one of the crates only had three (or maybe four) bolts holding it together (as opposed to the six or eight it was supposed to have). No one else noticed that but me!  I mentioned it to the guys (there were six Fish and Game and fire service folks out that day, engaged in the project) and they, rather sheepishly I thought, agreed that it was probably a good idea to secure the crate better before they hauled it aloft beneath a helicopter!  I was mortified, thinking that if I hadn't been there and noticed the precariousness of the crate, API's "rescue" operation may well have become a grizzly drop from several hundred feet.

Watching the PBS program tonight, it occured (poignantly) to me that the she-bear I was watching give birth might well be one of the cubs I helped rescue and release -- or the cub of a cub we released back then.  I think grizzlies live beyond 25 years, if I'm not mistaken-- that is, if they aren't killed by illegal hunting.  I got a little misty, thinking that way!

One of my earliest memories is of Mom and Dad driving us to Yellowstone and seeing Old Faithful and lots of black bears, bison, moose, raccoons, eagles, skunks and other wildlife. The trip doubled and trebled my lifelong love of the environment, wilderness and the creatures that share out world with us. One of my books, LET NO DAY DAWN THAT THE ANIMALS CANNOT SHARE certainly speaks to my passion in this area.  I need to get a new edition of it out -- this time strictly as an e-book -- and put down many more of my experiences with wild ones. I bottle-fed and released two fawns whose mothers were killed during the eruption if Mt St Helens in 1980. I rehabilitated and raised another fawn that had fallen into an irrigation canal in Cle Elum in 1965 or '66. I've rescued, rehabilitated and released hawks, small birds, skunks and raccoons as well.

While at API, I also helped rescue and release hundreds of beavers from a beaver farm that had gone bankrupt before the powers that be could make arrangements to have another beaver ranch take them and pelt them out.  We're taking families of beavers -- males, females, and youngsters, all of whom had been raised in small cement dungeons with a "stream" of water running through their pens so they could jump in and keep their skin in good shape.  Yes, what we did was entirely legal -- we weren't being unethical in the least -- we were just staying one step ahead of any other decision that would cause the beavers more grief.  It worked. 

And of course I raised Deaken, a serval kitten, from the time he was just a few days old until he passed away at 17...  So I have a lot of stories that remain to be told.

The Yellowstone documentary brought it all back to me.  It occurs to me that if I go wireless I can work from anywhere in the country I want to... and if I can do that, I can travel to these marvelous places and find even more to write about.

I may need a grant to get me going, but they're available if I can find out which ones offer what I'm looking for and hoping to do.

With a wireless PC, a digital camera and a tape recorder, I could really be getting things done!  Worth thinking about!

Does anyone else want to travel to Yellowstone with me this year and share expenses?  Let me know!  I need to put a date on it, or it'll never happen. And it needs to happen!

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